NDW50 Wk 21: Brighton Marathon (wc 03.04.17)

Brand shiny new marathon PB!

26.2 miles, 3:53:55, 8:55 min/mile, 561ft elevation gain

This was my fourth time running Brighton Marathon. My fastest time being 4 hours & NINE seconds at my first attempt in 2013. Me & Brighton had serious issues. I was desperate to go sub-4hr but it had beaten me on three previous occasions.

I went into today’s race with three goals.

  • Sub-3:50, (definitely within my capabilities)
  • A PB (better than 3:54:41)
  • Sub-4hr

There was also a goal D of finishing but I wasn’t thinking about that one.

If I’d written this at mile 23 as I was wondering if I would need to revert to Goal D, it would have been very different story to what it is 24 hours later when I’ve had chance to reflect on the whole race, not just react to the moment.

At mile 21 (about mid-day) the heat had hit me & I was struggling to take on enough water (later on in the race they actually ran out of water). It felt like mid-August, not early April. The sun was relentless, not a cloud in the sky & with no shade & little breeze the temperature was zapping my energy. It also coincided with the dreaded Shoreham loop around the power station that every Brighton runner dislikes.

Up until then my pace had been relatively consistent in the range of 8:45 min/mile & what was needed for sub 3:50. At 20 miles I was practically bang on target, almost to the second, but simply could not maintain the pace in the heat. I made the, now very sensible, decision to ease off & aim for Goal B (PB). And mentally I was ok with that.

As with all marathons it’s a tale of two (or even three) parts. The first half, through Brighton town centre, along the seafront to Ovingdean & back, up until about mile 14 I LOVED! I felt comfortable, I was running well, my pacing was good – in fact I was having to hold myself back – It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining (still early at this point!), I had good tunes in my ears, there was an amazing atmosphere & support & I was enjoying running! I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a part of a marathon so much!

I knew at some point my knee would start hurting, it has at every marathon I’ve run & with it’s recent temperamental nature it was inevitable. It hit at 15 miles. I knew if I kept going & maintained my form & pace I would eventually run it off, but it did make for a painful three miles or so around the streets of Hove which does slightly affect my mood. The support around Hove thoughts always fantastic helps take your mind off of the aches & pains!

Coming out of Hove & along the seafront I had a couple of good miles until the Shoreham power station & the decision to ease off. It may sound as if I was wimping out, making excuses, but seeing the number of runners struggling & collapsing in the heat made me realise that it wasn’t worth pushing it & risking being one of the ones carried off in an ambulance.

The last three miles were hot & painful, I won’t lie or pretend otherwise. In my mind I was preparing myself for Goal D. But I learnt something at the Thames Meander Marathon last month.

I learnt about mental strength.

I learnt that I can do it.

It wasn’t my legs that ran the last few miles yesterday, it was my mind.

I don’t remember much from those last few miles as my focus was purely on keeping moving as so many around me were stopping. Crowds lined the route, I kept hearing my name shouted, “go on Ally”, “keep going Ally”, these random strangers have no idea how much their cheers lift spirits. I saw the two Striders cheer teams which was hugely encouraging. And then the finish line was in sight. I’d stopped looking at my watch at about mile 24 & so had no idea whether I was within target or not. I smiled for the cameras as I ran the last few metres, over the line & done!

If the first half was one of my most enjoyable marathon experiences, the second half was one of the hardest (admittedly not quite as hard as Thames Meander). I wonder what would have happened if we’d had cooler temperatures? Would I have been able to maintain the pace & enjoy the second half as much as the first?

Theoretically a training run for NDW50, I am so pleased with a PB. Just 46 seconds, but in marathon running every second counts! Whether I ever beat this time I don’t know. At the moment I’m not particularly interested in another road marathon (with the exception of London but as I’ve only got a place in the ten years of trying once I’m not holding my breath). We’ll see how the NDW50 goes but I’d love to do some more trail & off-road races. I’ve run Brighton four times now. I finally got my sub-4hr, there are so many races out there & I want to do something different.

So, with less than five weeks to go, the focus very much goes back to the NDW50. I need my recovery from Brighton to be quick, I’ve got another 20 miles to do next weekend!

The week leading up to Brighton I had a mini-taper! I ran more than most marathon runners probably did but a lot less, & a lot less intensity, than previous weeks!

An absolutely wonderful five miles on Monday that if I hadn’t have been ‘tapering’ I could quite easily have extended into six, seven or even ten. No pain or discomfort, the sun was shining, the sky was blue & the running was good! I just plodded around the local parks & it was lovely to see spring blooming. An easy Striders club run at sunset on Wednesday & then a gentle shaking of the legs on Saturday morning, 13 miles in total.

Running into the sunset on the Striders club run!

This coming week I have a few days of recovery before easing back into training, two weeks of full training & then a proper taper ahead of NDW50. I cannot believe how close it is getting!

Week Twenty One: 39.5 miles in total with 945 ft elevation gain.

Exploring the local parks on a gorgeous spring day!

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